Q&A: What is the EPP and why is it here?

Centre-right politicians from all over Europe are converging on Dublin – we explain why

What is happening today?
The European People's Party (EPP), the umbrella-group for centre-right parties in the European Parliament, is meeting in Dublin to select their preferred candidate for European Commission president, currently held by José Manuel Barroso.

Who i s in the running?
Three people officially applied for the post – former Latvian prime minister Vladis Dombrovskis, EU internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier and former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker. All three are in the market for a new job, as both Dombrovskis and Juncker ended their terms as prime ministers late last year, and the French commissioner's term comes to an end later in the year, following the expiry of the European Commission's term.

Who is expected to win?
Jean-Claude Juncker is the clear favourite, mainly because he has received the support of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. He was Europe's longest-serving prime minister until November when he stepped down following the Luxembourg elections.

Does this mean we will know Barroso's successor today?
Not necessarily. Even if Juncker is chosen today, there is no obligation on member states to choose him if the European People's Party wins the most seats in May's elections. There is widespread belief that if a preferable candidate emerged (eg Christine Lagarde), Juncker could be ditched at the last minute.

The other main political groupings in the parliament have also selected their candidates – current European Parliament president Martin Schulz is the candidate for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) of which the Irish Labour party is a member, while former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt has been chosen by liberal group Alde.

Is this a new process?
Yes. The Lisbon Treaty states that the election of the commission president "must take account of" the results of the European elections, a provision interpreted by the S&D to mean the candidate of the parliamentary grouping that wins the most seats in the European elections will become commission president.


The EPP is uncomfortable with this notion – even last week Mr Barroso said the issue was "more complex" than suggested by the S&D. Critics argue that, unlike the S&D which has one candidate, the EPP members include heads of state who would have been strong candidates for the position, but none of whom would declare interest three months ahead of the elections.

So why introduce this new system?
Supporters of the idea of nominating a candidate ahead of time argue that it "democratises" the election of the EC president, allowing voters to have a direct say into what is arguably the most important job in the EU. They hope that if voters know in advance who will be the head of the commission should their party win, they will connect more with the electoral process in the run-up to May's elections.

Is Enda Kenny still in the running?
The Taoiseach has not put his name forward for this position. However, at least three other senior EU positions will be up for grabs at the end of May after the elections – the president of the European Council, which represents member states, the post of EU foreign policy chief, and Nato secretary general.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent